I’ve toured the Zappos corporate headquarters in Henderson, NV twice. The first time was almost two years ago (pre-Amazon.com), while I was employed by the Las Vegas Hilton. The most recent visit was last week, with a group of USC EMBA classmates. The tours are FREE and open to the public, Mon-Thu. You must call in advance to reserve a spot because they often fill up quickly. What struck me was that the culture hasn’t changed much since the two visits.
If you’ve never heard of the Zappos corporate culture or their CEO Tony Hsieh, I suggest you read this article from Inc. Zappos has one of the most unique corporate cultures you’ll ever experience. Their fun loving, employee centric, unorthodox style has led to great customer service and amazing financial growth.
When you arrive at Zappos headquarters, you’ll see office buildings that look like normal office buildings. You enter into the lobby and that’s where you’ll never use the word normal to describe the rest of the experience.
You’re greeted by a few people in the reception area while you wait for your tour guide. They give you a name badge to place on your shirt….sounds like a normal visit to a corporate office right? Wrong. You don’t have to present an ID or leave a business card….you could give them a false name, they don’t care. Where most corporations are scared to death of competitors or journalists infiltrating their walls, Zappos welcomes it with open arms!
When your tour guide arrives, they introduce themselves and give a brief history of the company. Then you are taken behind the scenes and given an overview of each department and functional area of the company. When you enter the world of Zappos, it has that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory feel to it. What you will see are cubicles decorated with personalized flair. Everyone is encouraged to be themselves but also to be a part of the team. There is no such thing as conformity or traditional rules in these offices.
The first time I toured Zappos, my impression of the work environment was that it looks like a teenage kid’s room. Posters of favorite sports teams & celebrities are peppered throughout the cubicles, loud music can be heard in others. It can feel overwhelming and disorganized for people who work in a traditional corporate environment. However, what I found prevalent throughout the offices was Organization, Happiness, Teamwork, and Pride. In both of my visits I have never seen an upset person or witnessed an argument. They either hide it very well, or it doesn’t happen very often. I’ve included a few pictures from our tour in this blog, but I won’t get into too much detail of the experience as I won’t do it any justice. You have to experience it for yourself.
So what’s the big deal? Why is this important? Well, Zappos is a very successful company with over $1 billion in annual gross revenue prior to their sale to Amazon.com in 2009 for a reported $1.2 billion. They were able to become a large, successful company with a corporate culture that you typically find in startups or smaller, boutique companies. To me that’s amazing.
I’m a big fan of Zappos and admire their ability stay true to their core values. I will attend another tour soon, but this time I want to bring my son who is 14 yrs old and is about to start high school in the Fall. I think it will be a great experience for him to see what is possible if you dream big and stay focused on a goal. If you are in Las Vegas, I highly recommend you take a tour of their headquarters…..I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.